Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
“Yes, as you can see, I’m better now.”
The Marquis replied while smiling nonchalantly.
Nelia, however, couldn’t easily get rid of the doubt she had in mind.
Why did he feel dizzy when he already got better…….?
Nelia eventually added.
“You don’t look well……”
“I suffered from a plague and there was a little fever remaining, but I’m completely better than before.”
“Is that so…….?”
“Yes, I got the plague when I was in Hatra Kingdom in the East, and I thought I was really going to die right after getting it. I definitely have gotten better compared to the people there.”
Marquis Clint said with a soothing smile.
Nelia contemplated whether to open the window or not upon seeing his confident attitude, but she soon gave up on that and prepared the tea.
“Where is the duke?”
“His Grace went to see the Emperor.”
Nelia said while setting down the teacup. The marquis nodded.
“I assumed roughly as soon as I arrived, but it seems that the duke is busy lately.”
“Yes, he has a lot of audience requests lately.”
Nelia put tea leaves and poured hot water into the cup. The hot water quickly turned red.
She learned a bit from the duke on how to make tea in case she had to serve tea to the guests.
Marquis Clint said while casting his eyes out the window.
“I heard it’s because the Crown Prince is neglecting his duties lately.”
“I don’t know the details, but I’ve heard it was like that, too.”
Carlos’ seclusion was a hot topic among people.
That explained why Marquis Clint, despite having only returned for a week, knew this.
Or, did Marquis Clint know anything else?
He was much more active in society and personal connections than Duke Hart, so he might know more about Carlos’ current situation.
Nelia asked the marquis secretly.
“By any chance…….. Does Your Lord know anything about His Highness Carlos?”
Marquis Clint was silent for a moment.
She wondered if it was because of his fever again like earlier, but he talked shortly after.
“I heard he’s bringing people to his abode.”
“People such as wizards, alchemists, and ancient historians.”
Those mentioned people have great knowledge in common.
It didn’t take Nelia long to think of Elena’s Tears in Carlos’ drawer when she recalled them while trying to guess his intention.
Is he studying Elena’s Tears…….?
The Imperial Family had already studied and analyzed it many years ago, but it was said that they didn’t find anything.
But Carlos has Elena’s Tears in his hand now, so he might have sensed his suspicious energy.
“Do you happen to know why His Highness Carlos called them all…….?”
“Well, I don’t know more than that.”
She had been expecting it for a while now, but apparently no one knew what Carlos was doing now.
Except for Carlos himself.
“Yes…… Thank you for the information.”
She was grateful to Marquis Clint for providing this amount of information.
She couldn’t endure the intention of asking the dukw about Carlos, and groaned inwardly.
But the marquis shook his head.
“You’re welcome. I should be the one to thank you.”
“I found out after I returned. The duke isn’t receiving any medicine at all for a while now.”
The marquis drew a gentle smile.
“That must mean there is another improvement in the curse. It’s because of the influence of Young Lady Nelia, isn’t it ?”
If she observed closely, the duke surprisingly didn’t talk much with the marquis.
She thought he would have told the marquis about everything that happened recently, but it seemed that he didn’t say anything to him (the Marquis).
Nelia pondered about where to begin to explain.
Maybe she could start with this to discuss the improvement in the curse.
“…I saw His Grace turned into a monster.”
The marquis sighed and asked.
“So you finally saw it…… How did you feel?”
“He was scary. And terrifying. But because I’ve found out the duke’s hidden secrets, it’s something that makes me attached to him.”
Something that makes her attached to him. It was difficult to explain with words, but if she had to say it, it was like a bond that was connected by a thick and strong string.
“When His Highness is with me, he doesn’t turn into a snake. Even if he turned into a beast, I was able to change him into his human form when I touched him.”
Nelia finished and had the marquis’ eyes wide open.
“When you reached out to him, he returned from a monster to a man……? Did that mean you approached him?”
“Yes……. It wasn’t intentional, but somehow it just happened…….”
The marquis spoke with admiration.
“I don’t expect such boldness to come out of that little body of yours.”
Nelia was embarrassed by the marquis’ reaction as if he was hearing the story of a great hero. The marquis seemed to be talking earnestly, and he pulled himself closer to the table while still sitting down and adjusted his posture.
“As you can see, the duke turned into a monster and had to be locked up on the day of the full lunar eclipse. That’s the reason why I told Young Lady Nelia to return home on that day.”
“Yes……. I also listened to the Marquis’ advice, but I stopped by the duke’s residence again because there was something I had to do. But His Grace, who turned into a monster, went into turmoil that day, and I had to take action because there was no other way.”
Or else, she would have been killed by the duke who lost his mind and went on rampage.
After being told so, he leaned back on the back of the small chair he occupied.
“…That’s incredible. I’ve never even come close to the duke who turned into a monster……”
The marquis still looked baffled even if he had dropped his gaze.
He exhaled briefly and looked at Nelia again.
“Thank you, Young Lady Nelia. Actually……. I knew that the duke would have a hard time when he turned into a monster, but I was so scared that I never even thought of approaching or helping him.”
The marquis had a wry smile on his mouth.
“Therefore, the duke who turned into a monster was like an existence of a guilty conscience to me.”
Nelia understood the marquis.
As a matter of fact, if the gate hadn’t been closed that day, she would have chosen to run away from him.
A huge body, glistening glare, and vicious fangs.
And above all that, the emitting strong burnt smell increased the fear of as if being engulfed in flames.
Nelia still felt numb when she recalled that moment.
However, regardless of the process, the marquis seemed to think it was great to reach out to the monster form of the duke.
“Young Lady Nelia, if you have any favors or requests, don’t hesitate to tell me. Even though I argue with the duke on a daily basis, he’s like a brother to me.”
Nelia thought to herself.
Do you know the person whom you thought of as brother treated you like a virus?
Nelia, who was giving the marquis a sympathetic look, noticed that his face turned slightly redder than earlier.
His fever seemed to go up again.
Is he really alright?
At that moment, the marquis reiterated with a serious expression.
“I’m not saying it randomly. Anything would be fine, so let me know if you need me.”
Asking for a favor……. She wondered what she should ask the Marquis.
Nelia, who was pondering, soon remembered about Carlos.
When the Marquis talked about guilty conscience, she was reminded of Carlos, the target of her guilty conscience these days.
She also wanted to help him if there was another way to heal his arm.
Nelia looked at the marquis and spoke slowly.
“Excuse me……. So, My Lord.”
“Do you mind introducing the pharmacist who made the duke’s medicine?”
Nelia took interest in the exclusive pharmacist of Duke Hart.
The pharmacist family has made the medicine used to ward off the curse that fell upon Hart Dukedom.
They made the family members of the Hart Dukedom blend in with ordinary people perfectly.
‘The duke’s medicine is becoming less effective lately.’
Even so, the pharmacist family who was able to develop such medicine might be able to improve Carlos’ stiff arm or make a medicine that could delay the symptoms.
Of course, she didn’t do this genuinely because she thought of him.
She was going to ask Carlos to show Elena’s Tears in exchange for the medicine.
If such medicine could be developed, Carlos wouldn’t think it’s a bad idea either.
But the Marquis, unaware of Nelia’s plans, asked in a concerned voice.
“What is it, Young Lady Nelia? Are you sick?”
“No, I’m not. I know someone who is terminally ill, so I thought I might help him.”
“Is that so? Let me jot down the address for you so you can go there. If you mention me when you’re there, you’ll be allowed to speak directly to the pharmacist.”
Nelia went to the desk and took some paper before coming back to the table. The marquis wrote down the address on paper.
And as soon as he wrote the last letter and the dot, the marquis lost his grip on the pen. As if his hands were weak.
The pen rolled down the table and reached the marquis’ feet.
“Are you alright, My Lord?”
“Yes……. I’m alright.”
The marquis picked up the pen again and put it on the table as if nothing had happened.
She grew anxious.
He might faint here.
Nelia was anxious, but the Marquis, the said person, acted as if nothing had happened and didn’t say anything.
The marquis smiled as he handed over the paper with the pharmacist’s address on it.
“Can I get a cup of tea now? I’m thirsty.”
When Nelia remembered the tea that had been long forgotten, she quickly poured it into the teacup. The tea already turned as black as poison.
But it wouldn’t be too bad to drink.
‘It’s a bit bitter, but…….’
The marquis was also responsible because he kept talking and made her occupied……..
Nelia cleared out her mind and held out the teacup to the marquis.
“Here it is…….. My Lord.”
The marquis accepted the teacup.
Nelia watched the marquis drink tea in a nervous manner. But it was the moment after he took a sip of the tea.
The marquis’ cup fell to the floor along with a crashing sound.
Nelia looked at the marquis in astonishment.
The marquis collapsed on the sofa with eyes closed.
‘No, pardon, My Lord……..!’
Nelia sprang up from her seat in panic and approached the marquis. She could feel the heat upon touching his face.
“My Lord……..! My Lord…….!”
Nelia shook the marquis’ body wildly. His limp body moved back and forth helplessly.
The marquis couldn’t open his eyes.
‘I have to call the aide.’
Nelia went out and found the aide. But the aide wasn’t in the place he was supposed to be.
The duke’s office was in the corner, and there was no one around to ask for help.
Nelia eventually left the office and found someone to get help from.
She asked the security guard for directions and called in the Imperial Doctor. The doctor ran in a hurry, breadcrumbs covering his beard.
“Where’s the patient?”
“He’s over there…….!”
Nelia pointed to the sofa. The marquis was still lying unconsciously on the sofa like a corpse.
The doctor approached the marquis and examined him. He looked very serious and said as he put his hand on the marquis’ head.
“He has a high fever. Where has he been recently?”
“He said he had been to Hatra Kingdom in the Eastern Continent. He was affected by the spreading plague here. But he said he was already getting better……..”
The doctor immediately clicked his tongue.
“If he had recovered, he wouldn’t be unconscious like this. He seems to think he was getting better because the symptoms subsided for a few days.”
Nelia’s face darkened.
Did the marquis spread the plague all the way to the Andrian Empire?
However, the doctor dispelled Nelia’s concerns first.
“But I’m glad. The plague in Hatra is rarely contagious unless the air temperature is high.”
Nellia was finally able to relax.
Phew, she was worried.
“However, once you get it, it won’t heal well and the fever doesn’t go down, so you have to feed him a strong fever reducer. Leaving him like this could be dangerous.”
“An intense fever reducer?”
“Yes, but now the Imperial Infirmary doesn’t have a fever reducer. We will have to admit him to the big clinic downtown.”
Nelia was puzzled. She couldn’t leave her spot. The duke would turn into a snake if she moved far and went downtown along with the marquis.
Nellia said to the doctor.
“Can you take the marquis to the city clinic on my behalf?”
“I’d love to, but I think it would be difficult because there’s an important visit at the moment. I could barely make time to come here.”
Nelia bit her lip at the firm attitude of the doctor.
The marquis’ face was getting redder. Time passed by and Nelia was urged by her mind.
Nelia stared at the Marquis, whose eyes were closed, while being unaware of everything.
There was just one option left.
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